t was a week ago and the sirens were wailing and at first we didn’t notice the helicopter. Being Curious George, the monkeys, we ventured out of our house, a half block from Bucklin Park and the place was lit up like a Christmas tree. It was actually quite surreal with all the reds lights and the searchlight beaming down from the sky. Little did we know, there had been a gang shooting a half a block from our peaceful little neighborhood. Now I have both good news and bad news!
Here is the good news. Although there are gangs in most of the valley towns, they are a lot less violent than the “boys in the hood” from the big cities. We do have violence here in the valley of the sun, but I hear and read more about domestic violence than the gang stuff. For many years I worked in Calexico and was chairperson for a “gang prevention and intervention” committee and we did our best to promote activities early in the lives of gang-exposed youth. In Calexico, there were six identified gangs back in the day, but again, without the violence we see elsewhere.
There have been gang activities at Bucklin Park for decades, but shootings are rare. In a community, which is a major drug trafficking corridor for the United States, the drug problems, in my estimation are severe, but the gang violence is a more manageable situation. A lot of the gang bangers are “tokers and taggers” (they get high and spray paint graffiti). I would much rather see damage to property than to people. I really can’t remember the last time there was a drive-by. I don’t know what happened last week at Bucklin Park, but there were 3-4 stabbings and/or shootings. None lethal, that I heard about. That is more good news.
The bad side of this is that gangs are still around and they will be with us until Jesus gets back and God’s Gang takes over. Gangs serve to recruit young people into the drug culture and serve as a very unhealthy alternative to the dysfunctional family that young people are often fleeing because of the stress, conflict, violence, alcoholism, and abuse. The gang groups are always waiting and recruiting. Gangs also function as illegal enterprises, using multi-level marketing of drugs in the community and region. They are now getting into human trafficking, more than in the past. Poor communities are more susceptible to crime, but the drug epidemic hits all neighborhoods, regardless of class, ethnicity, or location. In some areas, gangs and the drug business are just accepted as part of the culture, community, and local color. Unfortunately, it is the color of death, but often a slow, substance induced suicide, rather than a spontaneous blast from legal or illegal guns.
I am proud to have worked with and known, many locals, who got their education, and came back home to work in the hood. Prevention is part of their philosophy. These are the many teachers, coaches and, social servants who are trying to help the youngest children in the multi-generational phenomena called gangs. Also, let’s not forget the faith community, with the many residential rehabs (New Creations, Turning Point, Victory Outreach, I.V. Ministries, etc.) that are on the front lines, working alongside law enforcement. The positive forces for good against gangs are formidable and are winning many small battles, one family at a time. But the war goes on and I hope it doesn’t happen in your hood anytime soon.